Tough On Doping, Tough On The Causes Of Doping - The Kim Andersen Files

"I think that we have to fire an important part of the team managers on an international level. When I see that some teams recruit riders like [Riccardo] Ricco or [Ezekiel] Mosquera, I can only say that they have not understood a thing. Somebody like Kim Andersen, who - even if his suspension was lifted - was banned for life for three positive controls, has found a team again! It is our duty to set an example."
David Lappartient - President of the French cycling federation, FFC, speaking recently.

In 1985, Denmark's Kim Andersen - recently a directeur sportif with Team Saxo Bank and now heading the Schleck brothers' Luxembourg Pro Cycling Project - was an addition to Bernard Tapie's La Vie Claire squad. Andersen stayed with them the following year, and through 1987, by which time La Vie Claire had disappeared like a thief in the night and Toshiba had taken its place.

One of the interesting aspects of Andersen's time at La Vie Claire and Toshiba is that team principal Bernard Tapie had a zero-tolerance policy with regard to doping. What's so interesting about that? Prior to the advent of WADA, Kim Andersen was the only cyclist ever to be handed a lifetime ban for doping. And to achieve a lifetime ban, you had to be caught again and again and again.

Andersen first tested positive while wearing the colours of La Vie Claire at a race in Italy in 1985. For that, he would have been demoted to last in the race, handed a fine, usually of about a thousand Swiss franc (about a hundred quid in old money), and been given a suspended sentence.

Despite La Vie Claire's tough anti-doping policy, no action was taken against him by Tapie, calling into question the point of a zero tolerance policy that wasn't enforced. Not that most of the cycling journalists who bigged-up La Vie Claire's zero tolerance policy in those days questioned much where doping was concerned. What was there to question? Most of the fans didn't care one way or the other.

Andersen again tested positive in 1986, this time when finishing second at La Flèche Wallonne (a race Andersen had himself won in 1984). A few weeks later, the Dane yet again returned a positive test, this time at the Tour of Northwest Switzerland. In dealing with these two case, the Danish cycling federation decided they could take no action in respect of the Swiss transgression, as Andersen should have been serving a ban after his Flèche bust. Which is one of the most novel get-out-of-gaol-free cards the sport has ever seen. Consequently, all Andersen got was a three month suspension - this time not suspended - another fine of a thousand or so Swiss francs and once again bounced down to last on a race. A slap on the wrist, if that.

Tapie's reaction to a rider who had now tested positive three times while wearing his team's colours? Nothing. The media's response to Tapie's lack of a response? They rioted in the streets. They called for heads to roll. They boycotted the team. Of course they didn't. They kept their mouths shut and told the stories the fans wanted to hear, not the ones they ought have been told.

In 1987, Andersen managed to get caught yet again. Forget Tapie's demonstrably toothless zero tolerance policy, the sport had rules. Nothing could save Andersen this time. He was banned for life under the three-strikes-and-you-really-are-too-thick-to-be-playing-this-game rule. Until, that is, Hein Verbruggen looked at the matter. He decided the rules were too harsh and needed changing.

It was Christmas of 1988 before Verbruggen was able to push through a rule change. First-time offenders would be off the bike for three months. Well, they'd endure a suspended suspension at least, only called into play if they were caught again. At which stage they'd receive another three month sentence. This time not suspended. And they'd have to serve their original suspended three months as well. Keeping them off the bike - really, this time - for six months in total. But the lifetime ban disappeared - third-time offenders were to be sidelined for a maximum of twelve months and then allowed back into the sport.

What was even better about Verbruggen's rule change was that the slate was wiped clean every twelve months, instead of the previous twenty-four - making a twelve month ban all but impossible to achieve since you'd need to be a pretty dedicated and stupid doper to be caught three times in the space of one year, what with suspension accounting for six of those months and the cycling season really only running from March to October.

That of course wasn't sufficient to overturn Andersen's lifetime ban. To do this he found a procedural error in the handling of one of his doping violations - the relevant paperwork was processed slightly slower than the rules required. Having sat out the 1988 season waiting for Verbruggen to change the rules - effectively having served the one year ban the new rules would have required of him - Anderson returned in 1989. Did he learn his lesson? Of course he didn't. He was again busted for doping in 1992. At which stage his then employers - Z Peugeot - called a halt and fired him and his career as a cyclist drew to a close. Though his career in cycling was only just beginning.


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